ABSTRACT: The study aims at examining the radio as a tool for political participation in the 2023 general election with a focus on Planet 101.1 FM, Atlantic 104.5 FM, and AKBC 90.5 FM. The study was anchored on Democratic Participant Theory. The research adopted a cross-sectional survey research method while questionnaires were administered to the respondents who were drawn using a quota sampling technique. The data were analyzed in frequency and percentage methods while the data were presented with the aid of tables. The study find out that the respondents indicated that radio stations in Akwa Ibom played a very crucial role in political awareness, mobilization, education, and in the entire political development especially before, during, and after the 2023 general elections in the state. It did educate and sensitize voters on various activities such as registration, handling a voter’s card, what to wear during an election, and how BVAS works. It was recommended that broadcast media should be free from a few influential politicians to avoid turning their radio stations into tools of propaganda.
Keywords: POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
1.1 Background to the Study
Election as mass mobilization and participatory activity usually starts when an electoral system is put in place and serves as a mechanism for shaping political competition, power sharing, and resource allocation by definition, the election is the act of choosing or selecting one or more persons from a greater number of the person to serve as representatives in the taking of decisions that affect the public interest and the allocation of national power and resources in an acceptable manner (Israel, 2009).
Political participation is a process through which individuals or groups of citizens get involved in designing representative decision-makers to enhance effective governance and societal welfare. Participation can come in the form of voting, rally, contesting, and partnership, among others. To embark on this task of electing leaders, people must be mobilized in order to get enlightened via enlightenment campaigns, sensitization, information dissemination, and advocacy programmes directed at Community Leaders, Age Grades, Development Associations, Opinion Leaders, Artisan Guides, and other grassroots movements in order to increase their awareness and foster attitudinal change towards active involvement and participation in politics. (Ikelegbe, 2005).
According to one of the political activists, Anthony Gramsci (2010), “the ruling class or party through the agent of socialization ( eg radio) indoctrinated others, their beliefs systems, and values towards politics”. This emphasizes more on the need and advantages of radio in helping to educate people (rural people) on the aim of embarking on politics and the gain achieved from such in a persuasive and convincing mood to lure them into participation for such as it helps to build an organized and healthy and peaceful community, state, country and the world at large. It is also known that the impact of radio manifests in the emergence of political movements by instant groups with the aim to achieve objectives.
This implies that radio aims at reaching the diversified and heterogeneous people (rural dwellers) in their various destinations simultaneously and also in their different languages for both old and young to partake. This is because in most rural areas, old and young women are in a greater number (non-educated ones) and with their votes, one wins any election. There are various ways one can participate in politics. These ways could be through political rallies, partnerships, contesting, criticism, voting, and so on. The above participation means are very crucial in our rural areas, especially where we have a large country (eg Nigeria).
From the above statement, Democracy stands as the most widely embraced system in politics and governance as a means “Rule by the people,” which implies direct participation and representative terms of rule by the people. But, in most communities, many people are still showing apathy, alienation, and indifference to political participation, especially in cities populated by businessmen. The more information and education even enlightenment on the importance of political participation are made known to the people, the more interest, sympathy, and joy they derive from participating in it by the greater extent of the knowledge they acquire about it.
Therefore, mass media particularly radio play a crucial role in fostering an environment of good governance and political awareness in society. As the watchdog and interpreter of public issues and events, the media has a special role in every society. In an information-based society; the media have a disproportionately visible and influential role says International Foundation for Election Systems,(2011).
IFES (2011) added that democracy cannot exist in the absence of the press. This is because democracy is based on popular will and popular opinion depends on the public’s awareness and knowledge. It is the mass media that brings up, promotes, and propagates public awareness.
Fischer, (2002) says the main responsibility of the press is to provide comprehensive, analytical, and factual news and opinion to the people on everyday issues and events of popular concern. To fulfill its duty and responsibility, the press must work according to the fundamental principles of professional ethics and norms and values of journalism.
Goodman (2010) opines that democracy can neither be sustainable nor strong without a free press. On the other hand, press freedom will not be possible without democracy. Therefore, the mass media and journalists must be committed to democracy. For this, the press must be perpetually involved in the establishment and promotion of a democratic culture. The press must remain ever vigilant to protect and enforce people’s freedom of thought and expression and citizens’ right to all information relating to the various aspects of their life and future.
Held (2006) also observes the fact that access to information is a citizen’s right and must be taken to heart, and information must be presented in a simple and palatable manner. The right to information is inherent in democratic functioning and a pre-condition for good governance and the realization of all other human rights, including education and health care. The main objectives should be the promotion of transparency and accountability in governance so as to minimize corruption and inefficiency in public office and to ensure the public’s participation in governance and decision-making.
Media must be credible and trustworthy. Trust is the most valuable asset for any media. Once lost, it cannot be earned back. It is for this reason that all media must uphold their principles to provide accurate and factual news and other programmes. Jones (2001). The press must understand the difference between politics in general and party politics. Media should not be a vehicle or used as an advocate for any political party or ideology. Public and political issues should be clearly understood, analyzed, and presented in an impartial manner. During elections/political campaigns, equal time slots or opportunities must be allocated to each of the legitimate political parties and candidates.
In the course of elections, messages that encourage goodwill and harmony among all ethnic groups, religions, genders, cultures, languages, regions, and communities should be broadcast. The media plays the role of watchdog in reporting corruption, complacency, and negligence. In a changing, competitive landscape, compliance to good governance has never been taken so seriously, as people demand more transparency from both the government and private sectors. Responsible practices from the government, universal principles on human rights, and the fight against corruption have assumed great importance.
Hence, the research examines the role of radio in political participation and mobilization in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state in the 2023 general elections with a particular focus on how Planet 101.1 FM, Atlantic 104.5 FM, and Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation Radio Services 90.5 FM contribute to mobilizing the electorate.
1.2 Statement of Research Problem
This study aims to study the impact of radio or the contributions of radio in mobilizing and enlightening the people of Uyo metropolis to participate in political programmes. But, there are some problems caused by communication and other social problems. There are problems of apathy, indifference or alienation of the people towards political activities and programmes. Most citizens show no interest and do not contribute their opinions or information about political issues in general. The majority of the people show no interest, but few minorities give attention to political issues that even concern them. To solve the problem stated above, we need an information campaign, which helps to break down any barrier to politics and as well win the acceptance and support of people. There is a lack of this information campaign by the media operators. This information campaign involves educating, mobilizing, and sensitizing the host community to fully participate in politics. One of the problems was pre-project research. Pre-project research entails going down to the people, mixing with them, and finding out their different characters, styles, and the priority of their participatory needs. (Des Wilson, 2003).
1.3 Objectives of the Study
Below are some of the objectives of this research:
i. To examine the roles of Planet 101.1 FM, Atlantic 104.5 FM, and AKBC 5 FM in mobilizing the electorate towards participating in an election in Akwa Ibom.
ii. To examine Planet 101.1 FM, Atlantic 104.5 FM, and AKBC 90.5 FM orientate and mobilize the masses on their civic responsibilities..
1.4 Research Questions
In this study, an attempt was sufficiently made to answer the following questions.
i. What are the roles of Planet 101.1 FM, Atlantic 104.5 FM, and AKBC 5 FM in mobilizing the electorate towards participating in the election in Akwa Ibom?
ii. Do Planet 101.1 FM, Atlantic 104.5 FM, and AKBC 90.5 FM orientate and mobilize the masses on their civic responsibilities?
1.5 Significance of the Study
- It is expected that, at the end of this study, it updated knowledge within the framework of the study. Particularly, it assists people on the usefulness of radio in mobilizing people towards political participation in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.
- This study will help to create awareness of the role mass media (radio) play during or before the election to persuade and enlighten the city people in political activities and participation, and bringing to the limelight the responsibilities of radio as an aid to the government and electoral commission in integrating urban and rural dwellers into the political process.
- This study will help to know how effective radio can be when used in implementing political-oriented programmes and other programmes meant for people living in the city.
- The contestants and the electoral body will be reasonable to see and be convinced of the relevance of correct choice and selection of communication channels involved in executing any political programme. When this research study is readily made, it will serve as a point of reference or consultation for present and future studies in terms of media strength and selection.
- Media practitioners will gain from the research findings as it will expose them to what responsibilities media are to play in society.
- Finally, this study will ginger, encourage and motivate people of Uyo and Akwa Ibom state, in general, to participate in politics and the media operators on how to channel their messages to reach their target audience in the city.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The study covers the role of radio in political participation and mobilization in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state in the 2023 general elections. The work has been narrowed in scope due to the time, geographical locations, funds, and other logistics to Uyo residents in the capital city of Akwa Ibom state and staff/management of Planet 101.1 FM, Atlantic 104.5 FM, and AKBC 90.5 FM with a particular focus on the trio station contribution to the level of awareness and participation in 2015 among Uyo residents.
1.7 Operational Definition of TermsThere are some outstanding terms in this work with their appropriate definitions given.
MASS MEDIA: They are the agents of mass communication which help in reaching or disseminating information and influencing heterogeneous numbers of people in rural and urban areas eg. Uyo community.
RADIO: The process of receiving and broadcasting messages through the air to a listening audience in rural and urban communities using Electromagnetic waves.
POLITICAL: This is the activity involved by the people living in the areas as a direct participation in running government affairs or taking part in the exercise that will influence or affect the nation, state, and community.
MOBILIZATION: This is an act of organizing a group of people to participate in the political exercise in order to achieve needed development in the community and to change their wrong motives about politics.
PARTICIPATION: This is the act of taking part or being involved in political activities or events by the people of Uyo in order to get their decision-makers or representatives and development in the communities.